"Exploring Macedonia" is our first new itinerary in Greece since 2018. On this occasion, to give an impression of the experience, we are providing a kind of travel diary on our blog, following precedents from Greece, Ireland and Turkey. Rather than describing every day in detail (you can check our itineraries on www.petersommer.com for that), every day we will pick one image we took that day, accompanied by some explanations and thoughts.
Another pivotal day, namely the one on which we relocated ourselves and our focus from Central and Western Macedonia to Eastern Macedonia.
We bypassed Thessaloniki and went straight to the East Coast of the Chalkidiki Peninsula, overlooking the blue waters of the Aegean. After the bluster of the last few days, it was a refreshing change to enjoy the warmth and brightness the Greek summer normally implies.
Our site visit today, on that very shore, was to the ruins of Stageira. Stageira is not a famous name today, but the city was historically important in more than one way.
Founded by colonists from Andros in the Cyclades and Chalkis in Euboea (Evia), in the seventh century BC, Stageira became wealthy due to the local metal resources. It existed for a long time as a free city, in contact with similar colonies elsewhere in the Chalkidiki and with its founder cities much further south. In the fifth century BC, Stageira first allied with Athens and the Delian League, then with Sparta.
During the mid-fourth century BC, Stageira, along with the other free Greek cities in the region, became a hindrance to the plans of Philip II, the famous Macedonian king. Having united Upper and Lower Macedonia further west, his next aim was to gain control over the Greek and Thracian lands to his east, and such cities were not part of his design. As a result, Stageira was besieged, conquered and razed to the ground in 349 BC.
That would be that, if it weren't for Philip's desire to offer his son, Alexander (later known as the Great) the best possible education. Less than a decade after the destruction of Stageira, he was eager to hire one of the most prominent scholars of his era (and of all time) as Alexander's tutor: Aristotle, pupil of Plato himself. And Aristotle hailed from Stageira! Although we don't know exactly how it came about, it is clear that the city was refunded and resettled around this time, and that Aristotle was later worshipped there as a founder, so we can suggest that the reestablishment of Stageira was one of his conditions for accepting the task.
The site is fabulously beautiful. Set on a small peninsula made up of two hills and a saddle between them, it is covered in trees. As the result of recent excavations and consolidations, there is surprisingly much to see: an extensive city wall with gates and towers, the agora, overlooked by a monumental stoa, a series of sanctuaries to various gods, parts of a monumental temple, perhaps even the commemorative tomb and hero-shrine of Aristotle himself. An exemplary private home was also excavated (shown in our picture), its stone foundations revealing the locations of the andron (feasting room), the kitchen, the oikos (hearth-room and core of the house) and the little open-air court-yard where much of the family's activities would take place in the summer.
Today, Stageira was beautiful, dappled in sunlight, scented by earth and trees and serenaded by countless cicadas, announcing the arrival of summer!
Later, we made our way to Drama and a remarkable hotel set in a former tobacco warehouse. Tomorrow, we'll look at more ancient cities!